While Frost/Nixon is, in fact, a great film, it’s easy to see why Americans, and particularly those responsible for delegating awards, are giving it such recognition. People are pining for a piece that not only nails an arrogant, unrepentant president, but forces him to admit his wrongdoings in the end. It’s all so relevant. Painfully so. However, this observation should not be considered a discredit to director Ron Howard, the film really is terrific, and will be an awards’ favorite for sure.
For three years after being forced from office, Nixon (a mind blowing performance by Frank Langella who won a Tony for his portrayal of NIxon on Broadway) remained silent. But in summer 1977, the steely, cunning former commander-in-chief agreed to sit for one all-inclusive interview to confront the questions of his time in office and the Watergate scandal that ended his presidency. Nixon surprised everyone in selecting David Frost (Michael Sheen who couldn’t look more comfortable in the70s surroundings) as his televised confessor, intending to easily outfox the breezy British showman and secure a place in the hearts and minds of Americans. Likewise, Frost’s team harbored doubts about their boss’s ability to hold his own. But as cameras rolled, a charged battle of wits resulted. Would Nixon evade questions of his role in one of the nation’s greatest disgraces? Or would Frost confound critics and bravely demand accountability from the man who’d built a career out of stonewalling? Over the course of their encounter, each man would reveal his own insecurities, ego and reserves of dignity–ultimately setting aside posturing in a stunning display of unvarnished truth (imdb.com).
Howard comes back with this film after a completely disappointing The Da Vinci Code 2006 (and unfortunately, his next project is Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons). While he can’t completely wipe out the bad taste left in my mouth from his last film, he does deserve all buzz this film is getting. The acting is superb, truly, one of the best ensemble casts of 2008 (perhaps only beat by Van Sant’s Milk). Howard deserves credit for keeping a Kevin Bacon who bit off more than he could chew in check, and off screen most of the time. A terrific script is provided by playwright Peter Morgan who adapted his own play for the screen. If the subject matter wasn’t so subtle, this could be considered a revenge movie. The tyrannical Nixon brought to his knees by the more humble layman. Out of the nominees this year for Best Actor, Langella really should win, hands down, his potrayal of tricky Dick is astounding. Even if the subject matter bores you, watch it for Langella. In the same vein, the art direction should be praised as well. Brian O’Hara and Gregory Van Horn (Wild Hogs… I know, right?) brought the 70s to life without putting too much focus on bell-bottoms and big hair. The feel of the film is just right, and it takes a relatively boring subject and makes it larger-than-life-relevant. It’s brilliant.